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Meeting the Media Face-to-Face

By Allan Bonner

The following is an excerpt from Media Relations by Allan Bonner, first in The Allan Bonner Communications Series published by Briston House, 2003, ISBN 1-894921-00-3.

Sending out media releases, fact sheets and other prepared materials is a good way to start. However, apart from paid advertisements, trade or community-based publications, you will find very few people in the news business who will just take your words and use them the way you intended.

Reporters like to report and editors like to edit. So if your release generates some interest with the media, you can expect phone calls from news people asking all sorts of questions. The questions may be factual, suggestive, off-base, pointed or argumentative. How you respond will have a direct bearing on whether your media release gets tossed in the waste basket, is filed for future reference or used as the basis for a feature article on you.

What follows is a detailed guide to help you deal with news people when you meet them face-to-face, over the phone - or even "live" on the air. Remember, too, that you don't have to send out a media release to attract media attention. Depending on your interests, your business or your proximity to a big news story, you could get a phone call at any time.

When a Reporter Calls:

  • Ask for some think time
  • Take notes
  • Ask "what is your deadline?"
  • Find out who they represent
  • Find out if they are the journalist, researcher or producer
  • Ask what the segment or article will be about
  • Discover what approach they are taking
  • Ask what research, reports and documents have been seen? Offer your own
  • Ask what areas of discussion they would like to cover?
  • Find out where the interview will take place
  • Ask who else will be interviewed?
  • Discover date of airing or publication
  • Ask how long the interview will last?
  • Ask yourself the outcome if you do not cooperate
  • Be prepared to tape the conversation

Always call the reporter back. If you decide you are not the best person to deal with the issue, call the reporter and say so. If you can suggest an alternative, so much the better.

How to be a Good News Source

  • Help build the story
  • Prepare, rehearse out loud
  • Be convincing, not combative
  • Have the audience think well of you
  • Grab the good words, good concepts and moral high ground for yourself
  • Never forget you're talking to a journalist - it's not a conversation
  • Stay cool and firm
  • Show caring, knowledge and action

Allan Bonner is a former political aid and journalist, now offering media training on five continents. Books can be ordered and he can be reached at

Sources offers media training seminars with Allan Bonner. See: Sources Media Training

Related resources:

See also:
Getting the Most from Interviews
Guidelines for successful interviews
Off the Record
After the interview
Backing it Up
Involve Your Audience During TV Interviews
Oh, the Mistakes Spokespeople Make: Ten Sure-Fire Ways to Blow an Interview
When Bad Things Happen to Good Spokespeople: Handling Tough Interviews